Clashes between Palestinians and policemen over shop demolition in East Jerusalem; 3 arrested

Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday after authorities demolished a butcher’s shop owned by a Palestinian family.

According to Israeli officials, the building was built illegally in the Bustan area of ​​Silwan, without a license, on public land. Palestinians claim that their applications for permits are rarely granted by the Jerusalem municipality, giving them no choice but to build illegally.

The clashes arrested three Palestinians and two policemen were slightly injured, according to the Jerusalem Division of the Israeli Police.

“[Police] They were confronted with riots that included throwing stones, and the three suspects opposed the implementation of the order, [who] “They attacked the officers,” the occupation police said in a statement.

Palestinian residents said that an additional 17 illegally constructed structures — including homes — had demolition orders in effect. The municipality has flagged 80 more homes for demolition, but these orders are currently being broken in the courts.

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“We have had the store since 2010. We tried everything, and we brought every shape they asked for, but they don’t want us here,” said Harbi Al-Rajbi, whose son Nidal runs the butcher shop. Al-Harbi said his home also has a demolition order pending in the Jerusalem courts.

Israeli police forces after the demolition of a shop by the Israeli authorities in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, June 29, 2021 (Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90)

According to a former Jerusalem municipal official, the Palestinian residents of Al Bustan rejected many of the city’s offers to accept concessions that would leave most of the homes in place.

Every year, we would go to the courts to update them on the negotiations with the residents, and demand that the freeze be extended. [in demolitions]. “At a certain point, the court decided that those weren’t going anywhere,” the former official said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 13 Palestinians were wounded during the clashes, including six who were hit by sponge bullets.

The Jerusalem municipality did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in 1980, in a move not recognized by the international community. Most residents of East Jerusalem are Palestinians with Israeli residency. The 358,000 Palestinians who live there now make up about 40% of the capital’s population.

The Jerusalem municipality has long claimed that it demolishes buildings when Palestinians living in East Jerusalem build illegally.

The municipality previously stated that “demolition orders are carried out in an equitable manner and in accordance with court rulings.”

Silwan residents do not deny that the homes were built illegally, but they say that the Jerusalem municipality does not issue permits to Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

According to the left-wing nonprofit Ir Amim, more than 21,000 housing units were allocated in Jerusalem’s blueprints in 2019, but less than 8% were in Palestinian neighborhoods — even though Palestinians make up 38% of the capital’s population.

“The municipality decided for political reasons not to issue permits to allow construction in this area,” said local activist Fakhri Abu Diab, a spokesman for the Al-Bustan community.

The 2017 law imposed tougher penalties for illegal construction, as residents could be charged not only for demolition, but also additional fines for construction. The law also reduced legal remedies for those whose homes were threatened with demolition.

For years, the Jerusalem municipality has sought to advance a plan in the Al Bustan area to create a vast tourist park known as King’s Garden. The former municipal official said the ragbis store was not part of the area that was slated to become part of the attraction.

Al-Bustan residents say they have sought to advance a housing plan, in parallel with the Jerusalem municipality, that would legalize their homes and stave off demolitions. About three months ago, the municipality decided not to move forward with the proposal.

“The plan was approved by the municipality’s technical planning team, but the political leadership did not accept it,” Abu Diab said.

However, the former official blamed the intransigence of local residents for their refusal to make concessions: “I can tell you it’s quite the opposite.”

Evictions and home demolitions in East Jerusalem have captured global attention in recent months. Hamas said one of the reasons it launched rockets toward Jerusalem in early May, sparking an 11-day conflict, was in response to planned evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Since the round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the movement has sought to link the building in Jerusalem to the situation in Gaza, which it calls the “new equation” created by the hostilities of the past month.

With news of the demolition on Tuesday – with more likely on the way – Palestinian media outlets, Hamas threatened repercussions for Israel if demolitions continued in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, on Tuesday, that “the continuation of this extremist racism, which creates recurring crises for our people, will create” explosive storms.

The banks of the Kidron River in Silwan. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based movement, also threatened that continued demolitions in Silwan could lead to renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

The resistance is watching the Zionist escalation in Jerusalem and it threatens the rules of engagement. Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, said in a statement that this could lead to an explosion in the situation and igniting the region.

According to the former official, it is likely that the Jerusalem municipality will not introduce a large-scale demolition campaign in the near future.

Contrary to what some believe, neither the police nor the municipality wants to inflame tensions or ignite a war in Jerusalem. “They understand that if they go ahead with such a measure, it will end badly,” the former official said.

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